After staffing key diplomatic roles for years with inexperienced ideologues, the U.S. embassy in Iraq, and Amb. Ryan Crocker in particular, are desperate to have competent State Department officials in Iraq. Not surprisingly, State employees are, shall we say, reluctant to go.
A few days ago, the State Department, left with too few volunteers, announced it would to stop asking employees to go to Iraq and start ordering them to go.
Yesterday, State Department officials started pushing back.
Uneasy U.S. diplomats yesterday challenged senior State Department officials in unusually blunt terms over a decision to order some of them to serve at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or risk losing their jobs.
At a town hall meeting in the department’s main auditorium attended by hundreds of Foreign Service officers, some of them criticized fundamental aspects of State’s personnel policies in Iraq. They took issue with the size of the embassy — the biggest in U.S. history — and the inadequate training they received before being sent to serve in a war zone. One woman said she returned from a tour in Basra with post-traumatic stress disorder only to find that the State Department would not authorize medical treatment. […]
Service in Iraq is “a potential death sentence,” said one man who identified himself as a 46-year Foreign Service veteran. “Any other embassy in the world would be closed by now,” he said to sustained applause.
It appears the Bush administration lost the hearts and minds of Iraqis, and is close to losing the hearts and minds of State Department diplomats, too.